Iowa’s starting linebacker trio from last season is now headed to the NFL.
The Dallas Cowboys used the 19th pick of Saturday’s fourth round to draft former Hawkeye linebacker Anthony Hitchens. New England signed Solon native James Morris as a free agent.
This comes a day after fellow linebacker Christian Kirksey was selected in the third round by the Cleveland Browns.
The 6-foot, 240-pound Hitchens had been projected as a potential seventh-round pick by NFL.com or as a priority free agent.
“I’m a hard-worker, humble and blessed for the opportunity that I’m receiving,” Hitchens told dallasnews.com. “I’m just going to do whatever I can to bring the best of my abilities to the Cowboys.”
Morris started 42 games as a Hawkeye and is one of only six Iowa players to record at least 400 tackles during his career.
“I’m really excited about the opportunity with a historic organization,” Morris said. “I can only be so lucky to join their team.”
Former Iowa defensive back and Mid-Prairie graduate Tanner Miller also signed as a free agent with the Green Bay Packers on Saturday. Miller started 36 games for Iowa at free safety.
Morris described waiting through four rounds of the draft on Saturday as a crazy day.
“A lot of highs, a lot of lows,” Morris said. “You think things might go one way and then they end up going another. But I’m pretty happy right now with the way things panned out.”
Morris is also happy for his two former teammates who started with him at linebacker for Iowa.
“Those guys deserve it more than anybody,” Morris said of Hitchens and Kirksey being drafted. “They’ve worked for everything they have and they should enjoy this.”
A native of Lorain, Ohio, Hitchens was named Iowa’s Most Valuable Player on defense this past season after leading the team with 112 tackles. He finished his career with 270 tackles, tying for 20th place on Iowa’s all-time tackles list. Hitchens also earned second-team all-Big Ten accolades this past season and he led the Big Ten and ranked fifth nationally in tackles per game (11.2) as a junior in 2012.
Hitchens played both defensive back and linebacker as a true freshman in 2010. He came to Iowa as a lightly recruited 2-star running back recruit who eventually found a home on defense.
“I’m physical,” Hitchens said. “I like to hit. I can run around. There’s a lot of things to work on, but I think that’s the reason they got me in Dallas, they got a physical defense and they like to fly around and hit.”
A tape of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones congratulating Hitchens on the telephone for being selected was posted on dallascowboys.com. Dallas head coach Jason Garrett, defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli and linebacker coach Matt Eberflus also welcomed Hitchens to the Cowboys organization during the call.
“You ready to roll,” Marinelli asked Hitchens, who responded by saying he was ready to get going. “We’d like you to bring in some of that Iowa toughness. We like you and, everybody we’ve talked to just thinks the world of you. And we love your tape.”
Eberflus coached with Iowa defensive coordinator Phil Parker for 10 years at Toledo. Eberflus also played at Toledo during Parker’s time as an assistant.
“My good buddy is Phil Parker, we worked together for 10 years at the University of Toledo, so he stood on a table for you,” Eberflus said. “I’m glad to have you. You like to run and you like to hit.”
This marks the third time under coach Kirk Ferentz that Iowa has had at least two linebackers taken in the NFL draft. Chad Greenway and Abdul Hodge were selected by Minnesota and Cincinnati in rounds one and three, respectively in 2006, while Pat Angerer and A.J. Edds were taken by Baltimore and Miami in rounds two and four, respectively, in 2010.
Former Iowa tight end C.J Fiedorowicz was selected in the third round by the Houston Texans on Friday. He was the eighth Iowa tight end to be selected in the NFL draft under Ferentz.
Former Iowa long snapper Casey Kreiter announced on Twitter that he had signed as a free agent with the Dallas Cowboys on Saturday. Former Iowa offensive lineman Brett Van Sloten also signed as a free agent with the Baltimore Ravens. Another lineman, Conor Boffeli, signed with Minnesota.
B.J. Lowery, a first-team all-conference defensive back, had not yet signed a free-agent deal as of late Saturday night.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football